NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — Sam Reinhart scored twice and Sergei Bobrovsky scored 29 goals as the Florida Panthers beat New Jersey 4-2 on Saturday night, handing their fifth straight loss to the first-ranked Devils.
Gustav Forsling and Carter Verhauge also scored and Aaron Ekblad had two assists for Florida, which defeated New Jersey for the fifth time in six meetings and improved to 4-1-0 in its last five visits to the Prudential Center. Bobrowski earned his 343rd career win, making his sixth straight start, and improved to 18–5–1 against the Devils.
“I feel good, I’ve found some rhythm,” said the 34-year-old Bobrovsky, who is third among active goalkeepers in wins. The guys did a great job competing. We’re building chemistry.”
Eric Houla had a goal and an assist and John Marino also scored for the Devils, who are on their current skid of 0-4-1. Akira Schmid finished with 25 saves.
“Our group as a whole has to get better,” said Devils coach Lindy Ruff. “We didn’t have good enough puck management.”
Reinhart gave the Panthers a 1–0 lead with a power-play goal at 8:54 of the first period, finishing off a passing sequence with Alexander Barkov and Ekblad. Barkov did not play in the final two periods after suffering an undisclosed injury for the first time.
Forsling scored his fifth goal of the season at 7:49 of the second period to make it 2–0.
Marino got the Devils on the board with 8:33 left in the middle period, firing a long shot past Bobrovsky for the third. Jack Hughes got an assist on the play, increasing his team’s lead to 36 points (16 goals, 20 assists).
Reinhart restored the two-goal margin with 41 seconds remaining in the second, tipping a shot by Ekblad past Schmid for his 11th goal of the season.
“Getting one quickly was important,” Ekblad said. “We got our lead and found a way to save it.”
Houla scored his second goal of the season with 3 1/2 minutes remaining in the third to pull the Devils to 3–2, but Verhaeghe’s empty-netter – for his team-leading 16th goal – with 1:11 left. sealed the victory for the Panthers. ,
“I’m really proud of our team. We fought hard,” said Panthers coach Paul Morris. “And our goalie was really good.”
A challenging stretch awaits for the Devils with trips to Carolina and Florida followed by two straight home games against league-best Boston before and after the Christmas break.
Ruff expressed confidence that his team’s slump could be resolved by focusing on what made them so successful in the first two months of the season – creating offense with effective defense.
“Our strength is how we play defensively,” Ruff said. “We can’t get away from it. It’s the backbone of our team.”
New Jersey has conceded a total of four goals in its last three games, all home losses — including Thursday’s 2-1 to Philadelphia and Tuesday’s 4-1 to Dallas. Earlier, the Devils lost 4-3 in overtime to the New York Rangers on Monday and began their losing streak with a 6-4 loss at home to the Islanders last Friday night. They had won 21 of 24 after losing their first two games of the season prior to their current skid.
New Jersey’s hold on first place in the Metropolitan Division was reduced to two points after Carolina’s overtime victory over Dallas on Saturday.
Devils guard Dougie Hamilton played in his 700th career game.
Panthers: Monday Night in Boston.
Devils: Tuesday Night in Carolina.
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